Archive for the ‘News’ Category


Millions gather for Hindu festival

13 January 2010


Hundreds of ash-covered, naked holy men and millions of Hindu pilgrims are making their way to northern India to take part in one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

For Hindu devotees, the three-month Kumbh Mela, which begins Thursday in the towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh, offers the chance to wash away their sins with a ritual bath in the holy waters of the Ganges river.

Even in a country where mass events are commonplace, the Kumbh Mela stands apart for its sheer size and the enormous logistical task involved in its organisation.

“Putting on the Kumbh Mela is like setting up a city within a city,” said Alok Sharma, director general of this year’s event.

An area of 130 square kilometres has been set aside to host the five million pilgrims expected to participate in the first of four auspicious bathing dates on January 14.

Millions more will pass through the site as the festival unfolds, with the largest gathering of all expected on the final and most auspicious bathing day of all on April 14, which is led by the naked Naga sadhus (saints).

The Mela marks the only public gathering of the Nagas, many of whom live in remote, spartan conditions in mountains, caves and communes in the Himalayas and other regions of India.

The highest ranked among them will ride in chariots decorated with marigolds and pulled by tractors, while others follow behind carrying swords, tridents and saffron flags.

Naked and generally covered in a layer of grey ash, they are regarded by devotees as earthly representatives of the gods because of their self-sacrifice and denial of the material world.

Their isolation does not, however, prevent their organising for particular causes and they plan to use the 2010 Kumbh Mela to highlight the issue of global warming.

“Sadhus like us who go up to the higher reaches of the Himalayas to meditate have a clear picture of how bad the situation is,” Soham Baba, considered as the head of the Nagas, said recently.

“Pristine lakes and waterfalls that existed till a few years ago have dried up.

“The Kumbh Mela will be the appropriate place to protest.”

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Last Anne Frank helper dies at 100

13 January 2010

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The last survivor of a group that helped Anne Frank and her family hide from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War Two and kept her diaries, has died at the age of 100.

Miep Gies, a Dutch office assistant, was one of a handful of non-Jews who provided Anne’s Jewish family with supplies at a secret warehouse annex in Amsterdam between July 1942 and August 1944, before the building was raided by the Nazi SS.

Gies died on Monday night following a short illness, according to a statement on her authorized website.

“There is nothing special about me,” Gies wrote in a book first published in 1987. “I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time.”

After Anne and her family were taken to concentration camps, where Anne died in 1945, Gies saved her diaries and handed them over to Anne’s father Otto, who survived the camps and published the records in 1947.

As a result Frank became famous posthumously for the diaries she kept during the war. Now translated into more than 70 languages, her diaries remain one of the world’s best-selling books, vividly describing life during those years.

After the war, Gies gave public speeches to keep Anne’s memory alive and corresponded with people around the world. She also campaigned against holocaust denial and other causes.


Born in Vienna to Christian parents on February 15, 1909 with the name of Hermine Santruschitz, she moved to Leiden in 1920 to escape food shortages and was raised by a Dutch family who moved to Amsterdam two years later and nicknamed her Miep.

She started work as an office assistant at a textile factory but lost her job in 1933 as the economic crisis deepened. She then came under the employment of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, who was director of a pectin producing company.

Gies avoided deportation to Austria by marrying her Dutch boyfriend, Jan, in 1941. Their son Paul was born in 1950 and they lived in Amsterdam until 1993, when Jan died at age 87. Paul has now opened a condolences register on his website.

Gies and her husband became family friends with the Franks and when Otto asked for help, they agreed to hide him and his family at the secret annex, bringing them daily groceries and providing a link to the outside world.

In August 1944, after 25 months in hiding, the Frank family were arrested but an Austrian SS officer spared Gies from captivity out of sympathy on condition she promised not to flee.

Gies found Anne’s diaries in the debris left by the raid and kept them in her desk drawer without ever reading them. After the war ended, when it became clear that Anne was not coming back, she handed them over to Anne’s father.

She received honors from several governments and institutions, and last year had an asteroid named after her by the International Astronomical Union.



Pope crashed tackle at Christmas Eve service

26 December 2009

The anti-swine flu holy water dispenser

24 November 2009

ROME (Reuters) – An Italian inventor has combined faith and ingenuity to come up with a way to keep church traditions alive for the faithful without the fear of contracting swine flu — an electronic holy water dispenser.

The terracotta dispenser, used in the northern town of Fornaci di Briosco, functions like an automatic soap dispenser in public washrooms — a churchgoer waves his or her hand under a sensor and the machine spurts out holy water.

“It has been a bit of a novelty. People initially were a bit shocked by this technological innovation but then they welcomed it with great enthusiasm and joy. The members of this parish have got used to it,” said Father Pierangelo Motta.

Catholics entering and leaving churches usually dip their hands into fonts full of holy water — which has been blessed by a priest — and make the sign of the cross.

But fear of contracting the H1N1 virus has led many in Italy — where some 15 people have died of swine flu — not to dip their hands in the communal water font.

“It’s great,” said worshipper Marta Caimm as she entered the church. “Thanks to this we are not worried about catching swine flu. It is the right thing for the times,” she said.

Luciano Marabese, who invented the dispenser, said he did so out of concern that fear of swine flu was eroding traditions.

And he is now blessing himself all the way to the bank.

“After all the news that some churches, like Milan’s cathedral, were suspending the use of holy water fonts as a measure against swine flu, demands for my invention shot to the stars. I have received orders from all over the world,” he said.

(Reporting by Eleanor Biles; Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland)



Extreme Miracles

17 October 2009

Sometimes we need a reminder that miracles do exist… maybe this proof was a little too extreme.

Miracle! 6-month-old boy survives after stroller plummets into path of oncoming train

Source: NY Daily News

An Australian mom watched in horror as the stroller holding her 6-month-old boy rolled into the path of an oncoming train but the tot miraculously survived with barely a scratch.

Security video footage released Friday shows the baby’s mother looking away for a moment as the pram suddenly rolls off the edge and overturns onto the tracks as the train rushes into a Melbourne station.

The stroller was dragged about 130 feet along the tracks as the desperate conductor tried to stop the train.

“Fortunately the train was slowing as it pulled into the station,” said Jon Wright, a paramedic who treated the little boy at the scene of the accident.

“The baby received a bump to his head and was distressed when we arrived. Luckily he was strapped into his pram at the time, which probably saved his life.”

Michael Ferwerda, a Victoria state police sergeant, called Thursday’s incident a “lucky escape” and said people should be cautious in train stations.


Peace, a shared call to action

10 October 2009

U.S. President Obama responds to receiving the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.


Mum’s hug for man who ‘destroyed’ son

29 September 2009

By Ken McGregor
The Advertiser

A HEARTBROKEN mother has hugged the man who destroyed her only son’s life, saying she wants to work with him to educate other young drivers on how to avoid needless carnage on the roads.

AdelaideNow reports that in a remarkable act of compassion, Leeanne Groves yesterday told the South Australian District Court she had forgiven the driver – Christopher Martyn Lehman – for his “thoughtless and stupid mistake” which left her son, Dale Peake, with a “prolonged death sentence”.

She was delivering her victim impact statement yesterday during sentencing submissions for Lehman.

Ms Groves and Lehman hugged before entering court.

Mr Peake was left in a permanent vegetative state after Lehman, 24, of Salisbury East, fled from police after they pulled up behind him at traffic lights.

Lehman had been drinking with Mr Peake – his best friend – at the Clovercrest Hotel in Modbury North on December 4 last year when he made the tragic decision to drive them to a friend’s house.

The court heard Lehman “gunned it” from the police at speeds up to 120km/h before hitting a Stobie pole near the Slug ‘N’ Lettuce Hotel in Parafield Gardens.

The court heard Lehman had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.15.

Ms Groves told the court she felt sympathy for Lehman, even as she visited her son at the Julia Farr rehabilitation centre “not knowing . . . whether he is trapped inside his lifeless body”.

“Whatever the outcome is for Chris (Lehman) isn’t going to change Dale’s condition,” Ms Groves said.

“Chris also has a little girl and I don’t want any more heartache for his family. It must be a terrible time for them, also.

“I don’t want Chris to ever forget Dale and want him to always visit him and be his friend.

“Somehow, maybe together, we can educate other young drivers to try and help avoid more tragedy on our roads.

“To Chris and his family, I hope you are doing OK. I know that you must be suffering, too, and, as I do, wish we could turn back the clock and start again.”

Lehman faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a mandatory licence disqualification of 10 years.

Judge Millsteed remanded Lehman on continuing bail, to be sentenced next month.